ANC SG Magashule on the backfoot as new book probes his past
An explosive book detailing widespread corrupt activities by the African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Ace Magashule is continuing to ruffle feathers.
The book, by journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Gangster State – Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, unpacks the patronage networks of the former Free State premier and reveals that he was a regular visitor to the politically connected Gupta family compound in Saxonwold.
Various people The Africa Report spoke to says the book puts the pieces of “state capture” and patronage together.
Magashule, however, dismissed the book and took to Twitter to defend himself.
The ANC will soldier on to a landslide victory. We remain unshaken and undistracted!
— Ace Magashule (OFFICIAL) (@Magashule_Ace) 30 March 2019
Some are not surprised
Political analyst and Daily Maverick columnist Oscar van Heerden tells The Africa Report: “I think the author has managed to connect the dots, but he has not revealed anything new.” He continues: “It is really not a big reveal. We know that Ace is corrupt, and the book is simply adding flesh to the bones that we knew were already there.”
Magashule said he was also “consulting lawyers” with a view to taking action against Myburgh as well as against City Press and The Sunday Times, which published front-page extracts and summaries from the book.
Fight your corner
The book’s publisher, Penguin Random House South Africa, hit back and said it would oppose any legal action “that seeks to hide essential facts from South Africans about how our government is really being run. It is important that individuals and organisations are not intimidated by powerful people with deep pockets who cannot tolerate these truths being laid bare.”
Penguin Random House says whatever the ANC and Magashule decide, it stands by the book and its author. It said: “Gangster State was meticulously researched and thoroughly checked by our legal team. The book tells an important part of the state capture story clearly and compellingly. We will not withdraw it – or any of its contents – under political pressure.”
A position of power
Ace Magashule is one of the most powerful men in the ANC. As the governing party’s secretary general, he is the chairman of the board and chief executive in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the party from Luthuli House, the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg.
Magashule was Free State premier and the ANC chair of the province for several years. During his tenure, he was seen as a powerful provincial leader with an even more powerful patronage network. He was also part of an informal lobby group called the ‘Premier League’. It was one of the first groupings to come out in support of Jacob Zuma’s preferred presidential successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She lost the ANC presidential bid to Cyril Ramaphosa in late 2017.
Van Heerden, the political analyst, tells The Africa Report that the power of Magashule in the ANC should not be underestimated. “He really is responsible for all the inner workings of the organisation – maintaining the organisation nationally; running the organisation and every decision that has an impact on the ANC.” Magashule is the second most powerful person in the ANC after Cyril Ramaphosa, adds Van Heerden.
Will Magashule survive?
The ANC has never removed a sitting secretary general. With a month to go before the 8 May elections, the ANC wants to put up a united front. It is unlikely that the National Executive Committee (NEC) will take a decision to remove him. Van Heerden says that the law enforcement agencies must do their work. “If any individual of the ANC NEC has intentionally broken the law, it must be investigated. And if they deem it necessary to charge and prosecute the individual, this would be enormous pressure to bear and could lead the SG to vacate the ANC.”
Author Myburgh told 702 Radio: “South Africans want the law enforcement agencies to do their work no matter how powerful someone is. They should be investigated if there is grounds for a criminal case. The book is a test case for the ‘new dawn’ of Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks and other relevant law enforcement agencies. The Zondo Commission was tasked to look at ‘state capture’ in the Free State. It would be good to unpack this. On Friday, a senior Free State official […] will be testifying at the Zondo Commission, and he will provide some very interesting details on Ace’s questionable conduct as Free State premier.”
In an interview with CapeTalk’s Kieno Kammies, ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete said that after consultation with the party’s leadership, it would retract the statement saying that there was an orchestrated media campaign against the ANC. “We have consulted with our leadership as well as the officials of the ANC, and I will issue a statement to retract what we have said in that particular matter,” Legoete said.